Our family goes to “Family Camp” every year. Our church rents a camping ground with little cabins and stays for a week of fellowshipping, cooking and eating and preaching. It is a lot of fun, plus the Lord always teaches me something there. This year I went without any idea what the Lord was going to give me. I felt filled already. I was content and hadn’t any trials.
One night, a preacher from Canada, “Pastor C.” preached on The Power of the Laid Down Life. I was totally convicted. But it was actually on a side note, not the main text. Pastor C. said “It’s easier to serve than to love – because when you serve you do not have to become vulnerable.” It smote my heart. I knew that was exactly what I did, not necessarily with God, but with my family. I have always shown my love by serving. Which isn’t a bad thing…but I realized I had started serving instead of loving and I justified it because, after all, acts of service were my “love language.”
I felt disappointed in someone I loved. I felt they didn’t love me as I wished to be loved. They didn’t seem to relate to me, or care how I was or how I felt, never taking the time to get to know me. I didn’t feel as though I could share with them, they wouldn’t really care. They weren’t really interested. And what was worse, they seemed to think they had my heart. And I felt it was unearned. I only gave it because it was my duty. I felt fake when I spent time with them. I realized that because I was tired of loving, or showing love and receiving “nothing” back, I just served to protect my feelings. I could serve and be respectful, stay on good standing with them and not love them. This wasn’t a sudden struggle… it was something that I had and pushed away for a long while.
The message convicted me. I went to the altar and gave it to the Lord but still felt unsatisfied. Whenever I had struggled with feeling lonely, or unloved I would find peace by finding Christ as my Beloved and Lover and it would settle my heart. Just as I shared with you earlier. But this time, it didn’t help. I felt guilty but wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do.
When I got home from camp, I climbed up onto one of the big one-ton hay bales and looked to the mountains where help has come so often. I sat there and told Him everything. He told me not to be bitter. I accepted that, but I was afraid the LORD was going to ask me to love this person anyway. I had already tried that. I was tired of praying for this person’s spiritual victory, tired of giving love and seeing no change in them. I was tired of feeling hurt; it was easier this way. I almost stopped listening. And then what Christ whispered in my heart wasn't the command I feared, but actually a little reminder: Love is not conditional.
That week, this person communicated a lot with my family. We were able to share our feelings with them. We talked a lot more and they even shared struggles they had been having. Openness! This was one of the things I felt hurt about.
Then, the next Sunday, my brother Chris preached. I usually share a lot with him, but I had not shared this with him. Chris preached on Love. Chris wept. He preached on the first 10 verses of Isaiah 53. The Holy Spirit came and smote my heart. Right then and there.
Chris described love. Love is willing to look foolish, to be despised and rejected. Love is willing to bear one another’s sorrow and be grieved. Chris said the Lord is love and if we refuse to love we are rejecting Him.
Love is to heal… if we weren’t so busy pointing out others faults maybe we would heal more. Love is silent. God opened not His mouth. Love joyfully is bruised. Love takes the blame.
And here I sat on my pew, unwilling to love this person because of their faults. What conviction. And yet, I freely reveled in God’s love for me. What if Christ loved me as I loved this person? How selfish I am.
Chris quoted, “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour…” Ephesians 5:2
How was I to love this person? As Christ loved me. How did Christ love me? Unconditionally. Giving all of Himself, willing to be crushed, not for His faults, but for others. A sacrifice. He loves when He isn’t loved in return.
I realized – He loves me even when I’m inconsistent with my love for Him. He loves me even when I’m unwilling to stop and listen and relate to Him. He loves me even when I do not try to get to know Him. He loves me even when I pretend or think that I know Him, and I don’t.
Love expects nothing in return. And beyond that – it accepts bruises instead of good, accepts rejection instead of care. How short I fall. My “love” only loves when it is reciprocated the way I want it to be. Love continues despite circumstances. Conditions do not exist according to love. 1 John 4:7-13, 16-21
Someone asked the question, “Do I believe that as my Savior He has the right to demand such a response to His love if I would really love Him as He first loved me?" ( Roseveare 20)
Miss Roseveare went through so much for Christ, in order for Him to love through her. She paid a high price. It cost her to be a servant of the Most High. She lived through the Congo Rebellion, she was beaten, imprisoned and what I consider the worse – raped. What a price! What a sword! And yet, she considered it a privilege.
She wrote: “It was a very dark night. I felt unutterably alone. For a brief moment, I felt God had failed me. He could have stepped in and prevented this rising crescendo of wickedness and cruelty. He could have saved me out of their hands [the rebel soldiers who tortured and raped her]. Why didn't He speak? Why didn't He intervene? And in desperation, I almost cried out against Him: 'It is too much to pay!'
Yet His love for me cost Him His life. He gave Himself, in that one all-sufficient atoning sacrifice at Calvary. He so loved that He gave all. His sacrifice was the expression of His great love.
But His sacrifice had achieved something. He had saved lost mankind from their sins. What was I achieving by suffering brutality at the hands of the rebel soldiers? If I died (which seemed probable and imminent) no one would even know of the suffering. What was being gained? God, why, why?
In the darkness and loneliness, He met with me. He was right there, a great, wonderful, almighty God. His love enveloped me. Suddenly the 'Why?' dropped away from me, and an unbelievable peace flowed in, even in the midst of the wickedness. And He breathed a word into my troubled mind: privilege.
'These are not your sufferings: they are not beating you. These are My sufferings: all I ask of you is the loan of your body.'
For twenty years, anything I had needed, I had asked of God and He had provided. Now, this night, the Almighty had stooped to ask of me something that He condescended to appear to need, and He offered me the privilege of responding. He wanted my body, in which to live, and through which to love these very rebel soldiers in the height of their wickedness. It is inconceivable, yet true. He offered me the inestimable privilege of sharing with Him, in some little measure at least, in the edge of the fellowship of His sufferings. And it was all privilege.” (Roseveare 21)
Am I willing? To be loved through God at such a cost? And yet, Miss Roseveare learned a beautiful lesson. As Christ considered it a joy to bear the sins of the world, my sins, the sins of a rapist, the most wicked things ever conceived; Miss Roseveare learned to consider the fellowship of suffering a privilege. And I was scared to love others because it was humbling? I was unwilling to love someone because they didn't love me the way I wanted? I know I can trust Him. There is nothing to fear with a Savior like Him. If He would use my body, I will give it to Him. Even if it means to be used and humiliated. For He did the same for me. And He can turn such evil into good and love the unlovable through me. Miss Roseveare later led every rebel soldier to Christ who gang raped her.
To love means I must accept the fact that I’m making myself vulnerable. I can accept the hurt, because I love them.
That is what I learned. It took only several paragraphs to explain a lesson that took almost a month of crying and searching and accepting. I’m still learning. Love is not an emotion. It’s a choice. And once decided, it is an action. Love is kind. It suffers. It is content. It is meek. It is seemly. It is calm. It is pure. It is joyful. It is strong. It is believing. It is hopeful. It is enduring. It is never-ending.
My desire is that I may learn to love others as Christ.
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; Charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Chraity never faileth.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8